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Thursday, February 13, 2003

South Pole Mostly Water

"Swiss Cheese" layers.
Credit: NASA/MSSS/Caltech
In a stunning blow to the carbon dioxide greenhouse effect method of terraforming, researchers in Caltech University said today that the martian southern cap was almost entirely composed of water, not carbon dioxide as once thought. The cause of confusion appears to have been a thin layer of frozen carbon dioxide covering the pole. This destroys any hope of using the positive feedback loop that would be caused by the release of CO2 once thought possible to warm the planet.

On the other hand, it does dramatically increase the amount of water available to any terraforming project. Water is critical to all plans involving terraforming, as it would be needed by both humans and all of the life we would create on the planet.

This by no means eliminates the possibility for terraforming Mars, as some pessimists have suggested. The use of a class of compounds known as perfluorocarbons, which are related to the CFC's that have been harmful to Earth's atmosphere, might still provide a way to raise the temperature of the planet significantly. It is also worth noting that water is a weak greenhouse gas when in the gaseous state, although temperatures would need to be several tens of degrees celsius higher to have this occur.

(More info: Yahoo! News)

- posted by Brian @ 18:38 EST